Riyad Mahrez and Sadio Mane resume an English Premier League rivalry Thursday on a different stage when Algeria and Senegal clash at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
Algerian winger Mahrez was part of the Manchester City team that pipped Senegalese forward Mane and his Liverpool team-mates in a thrilling title race last season.
Now the stars swap the Etihad Stadium and Anfield grounds of their clubs for the 30 June Stadium in Cairo, and a Group C showdown likely to decide who tops the final standings.
While both countries seem sure to qualify for the round of 16, topping the table would theoretically offer less formidable opponents in the first knockout stage.
While supporters, the media and publicists focus on Mahrez and Mane, Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi is less happy with that situation.
“I am not in favour of highlighting individuals over teams,” said the former Manchester City midfielder. “We must put less emphasis on Riyad.”
Belmadi was much happier when recalling a winning start for his team with Baghdad Bounedjah and Mahrez scoring in a routine 2-0 victory over Kenya.
“Collecting maximum points from our first match meant a lot because Algeria have a history of poor starts at the Cup of Nations.”
Mane returns after a suspension ruled him out of the 2-0 win over Tanzania and coach Aliou Cisse says he is happy, particularly with the half-volley goal of 20-year-old Krepin Diatta.
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